[AD] Our meal and drinks were gifted in exchange for a review. As always, views are completely my own.
I’d heard good things about The Bulls Head Holymoorside. But I had no idea just how spectacular the food is. I was recently invited to review their tasting menu and I was blown away by the experience. The food is utterly sublime and rivalled any other high end fine dining I’ve ever had. This is a real hidden gem. It won’t stay that way for long.
The Bulls Head Holymoorside
The Bulls Head is situated in the picturesque village of Holymoorside on the outskirts of Chesterfield and easily accessible from the Peak District (it’s just 15 minutes to Baslow and the Chatsworth Estate). Under the watchful eye of Chef Patron Mark Aisthorpe the pub has quietly been establishing itself as one of the foodie hot spots in the area.
Chef Mark Aisthorpe
There’s a real focus on fresh, local and seasonal produce. Everywhere says that these days. What’s unique about The Bulls Head Holymoorside is that head chef and owner, Mark Aisthorpe not only grows his own vegetables and herbs. On the day we dined both the rabbit and venison had been shot and butchered by Mark himself, as is all of the game of the menu.
Aisthorpe is passionate about quality ingredients and works closely with local suppliers. Walton Lodge Farm provide both the lamb on the menu, and also beef, from their rare breed cattle. Herbs are grown onsite or sourced via Aqua Garden (a local family business). The butter on the tasting menu is homemade from milk from a local farm.
Chef Mark Aisthorpe has worked at various Michelin starred restaurants around the country, working for the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, and this really shows in the quality of the food. In March 2022 he appeared on the BBC’s Great British Menu and progressed to be a regional finalist.
A few nights ago I was lucky enough to sample some of the incredible food at The Bulls Head. I went with blogging pal, Sara at Girl Eats Sheffield. It was a cold and rainy December evening, I’d had my booster jab the day before and was feeling generally a bit rubbish… if only I had known what delights awaited for me. This is the sort of food I would look forward to for weeks! I am already planning a return visit.
We kicked off the night with a small glass of wine. I’m often very underwhelmed (sorely disappointed) by ‘wine by the glass’, particularly in pubs. It seems a bit of a roulette how fresh and cold it is, never mind the quality of the wine. Well, none of that is an issue here. I ordered a Pinot Grigio. It was perfectly chilled and bone dry. The best I’ve had in ages. On this alone I’d definitely be tempted by the wine flights on a future visit. Drinks flights are even available on a two course a la carte menu – I’ve never noticed this anywhere else locally. I don’t know loads about wine but definitely appreciate a good glass and have always enjoyed pairings when we’ve done this before so would be keen to do this in the future if I can arrange a chauffeur (my husband’s least favourite phrase in anything I write!).
A la carte menu
Mark cooked us a selection of dishes from their à la carte menu, tasting menu style (so our portions were small – if you ordered these dishes from the à la carte menu you’d get bigger portions).
When the canapés arrived I got a sense of what a treat we were in for. My favourite was the textures of carrot with Fellstone cream cheese garnished with caviar. Then there was a perfectly crispy chicken wing stuffed with homemade black pudding, covered in barbecue sauce and sesame seeds. Both were moreish and very, very tasty.
Next up was the bread course. Freshly baked sourdough with two different butters: parsley and cultured butter. Both made in house from scratch using milk from a local farm.
We were then served a huge hand dived scallop. This was expertly paired with teeny tiny diced apple and fennel, a spiced winter squash purée and chopped hazelnuts. The combination of flavours was heavenly.
The next course was “Ham and Eggs” a ham hock and rabbit terrine with onion ketchup, egg yolk and shaved truffle served with toasted discs of brioche. This wasn’t really for me. I’ve never particularly enjoyed terrines – but my dining companion and the waitress who served us both raved about this dish so just personal preference.
What was definitely up my street was the fish course. I love fish and it’s probably what I would have picked as a main course had we been dining à la carte. The halibut had delightfully crispy Gruyère cheese crumb and was served on top of sea vegetables with a beautifully vibrant kelp and mussel sauce (poured at the table for perfect presentation). This was served with an immaculate little rectangle of dauphinoise potatoes.
The star of the show for me was the Venison. OMG it was exquisite! Mark had shot the Venison himself on a friend’s farm. Perfectly cooked medallions of the most magnificent meat were dressed at the table with a Madeira jus. We were left with the little jug of extra jus which pleased us greatly. Sublimely savoury it was the impeccable companion to the charred onion, parsnip and parsnip purée and flecks of 85% cocoa chocolate. Days later I am still thinking about this dish. It was honestly perfection.
Next up was a palate cleansing “apple crumble”. This was in fact a sorbet that had somehow perfectly captured the flavours of this traditional and well-loved pudding. Very, very clever.
The actual dessert was a tantalising combination of gingerbread parfait with white chocolate and mixed berry. It was incredible! I could eat this again and again and again, and I fully intend to.
As I enjoyed an espresso the petit fours were served in a beautiful wooden box. It felt like opening a gift to discover three perfectly proportioned patisserie nestled on coffee beans. There was a crème pâtissière macaron, a deliciously creamy lemon and white chocolate fudge and a refreshing strawberry fruit pastille. Like the rest of the food we’d enjoyed that evening, they tasted utterly delicious.
Service at The Bulls Head in Holymoorside
The only difference, in my mind, between The Bulls Head and the high end restaurants I’ve eaten in over the years is the service. Our server, restaurant manager, Amie, was exceptionally good. She helpfully explained each course and was also very witty and engaging.
But essentially this is still a traditional country inn, so don’t expect to be excessively fussed over. I actually think this might suit many people. People who appreciate exceptionally good food but don’t require pandering to (or perhaps feel uncomfortable somewhere ‘too posh’?). The Bulls Head would be an amazing entry point to the world of fine dining. It’s welcoming and relaxing. It’s also a more accessible price point – because you’re not paying for a flashy theatrical dining room or elaborate service. It’s all about the food. And the food is amazing.
Spectacular food in an unassuming pub environment. If genuinely good food is your thing rather than airs and graces, The Bulls Head offers a sublime menu.
We enjoyed taster menu sized portions from the current à la carte menu. The Bulls Head à la carte menu consists of canapés, bread and butter and two courses for £34 or three for £40, with supplements on some menu items. Paired drinks flights are available at £18 for two courses or £26.
Regular tasting menu evenings are currently held on the last weekend of the month – with more coming soon! Tasting menus need booking and a deposit.
Car park to the rear of the pub and plenty of on street parking if this is full.
Dog friendly in the bar area only (the à la carte/tasting menus are usually served in the restaurant area which does not permit dogs – but you are welcome to eat both menus in the bar area – just specify this on booking).
The pub also serves a classic bar menu. Think comforting classics like Steak and Ale pie and fish and chips.
S42 7EW, Book online or email email@example.com or call 01246 569999
Book to stay at the Bulls Head in Holymoorside on Hotels.com (affiliate link)
4 replies on “The Bulls Head Holymoorside REVIEW”
How many Christmas lunches have you had so far this year?! They all look delicious.
Haha. I’m saying two… (two turkey dinners – the rest are just ‘meals’).
The food here sounds fantastic, especially the venison, I always order it when i see it on a menu and this dish sounds delicious!
I think I will going forward too. Totally converted!